Kaze no Stigma focusses on Kazuma Yagami who was previously expelled from the Kannagi family when he failed to develop any fire magic. He’s returned to Japan after an absence and he’s no longer the weakling a lot of the family took him for. Having become a contractor for the spirits of the wind, he’s got a few new tricks up his sleeve. Throw in tragic back story and meddling family member trying to set him up with his cousin and you have the basics of this story.
Kaze no Stigma is one of those very weird anime where it actually has some really great ideas and parts of it and individual stories are actually quite good, but you have to sit through some real groan inducing moments to find them. The overall enjoyment of the action and magic (which are quite enjoyable) continually gets disrupted by completely unnecessary (and fairly poorly executed) fanservice, obvious comedy moments that seldom hit the mark, or just random character interactions that don’t really seem to contribute much. What you end up with is a series that as a whole is watchable but can’t really be well recommended.
The basic consistency issues are most clearly highlighted through the two lead characters. We meet Ayano Kannagi first and she’s an arrogant and hot headed fire magic user from the Kannagi family and destined to be its next head (after she beat down Kazuma way back when). However, despite some raw power she’s pretty useless most of the time. Also, despite continuous evidence throughout the series that Kazuma is now way out of her league, she continues to belittle him verbally and pick fights with him, even while blushing and getting jealous every time he even interacts with another female character. Basically, Ayano’s character is such a cliché character. She doesn’t come off as authentic in the slightest.
While that would be bad enough, the show also continually uses her for its fanservice elements (though she isn’t the only female character who gets put through this). Her clothes are regularly strategically torn during figths and we and other characters get some interesting angles when she’s in combat. They don’t even make it through the first sequence in episode 1 before the wind blows her skirt up with her declaring “I hate the wind” which is nice for setting up her love/hate relationship with Kazuma but pretty horrendous as an introduction to the show.
Despite that, Ayano does get some cool moments. Her jumping off the building to intercept Kazuma when he lost his senses was pretty reckless but as she herself pointed out it was the only thing she could do in that situation. There are other moments in battle (usually after a pep-talk from Kazuma) where she manages to not be useless but these are few and far between.
Kazuma on the other hand goes from being cold to pretty much everyone in the Kannagi family (except Ren, his younger brother) to being cold to pretty much everyone except Ayano and Ren. Ayano however he mostly teases and torments. However, Kazuma’s basic personality feels far more realistic than Ayano’s given his history and we learn throughout the series that he has very real reasons for his anger toward his family and for keeping his distance from everyone else. His insistence that he get paid (even by the Kannagi’s) when helping out is explained by his uncle in that it allows him to help his family without losing face if it is a paid job. So while he might come off like a jerk, his actions mostly make sense. And he’s about the only character in the series who gets any development. He’s still a jerk to Ayano, though, and given she’s set up as the semi-love interest (though it never really goes anywhere) that’s a bit problematic.
None of the other characters really do much of anything. They are there, but they are really quite forgettable (with the exception of Ren who has nailed being cute little brother but not a pushover).
The story also is fairly inconsistent as it weaves from hunting down a killer, to some random youma fights, to American magic user showing up and challenging Ayano, to the mage family that are supposed to stop the volcano erupting, before we finally get to Kazuma snapping and seeking revenge for a past wrong. None of the stories are bad in and of themselves (except the American magic user, could have done without that) but the don’t really create a cohesive narrative either. It’s more we just kind of drift from idea to idea with characters who don’t really change much or have much in the way of a goal. Possibly this could still be interesting, but the stories are pretty predictable.
The art and animation is probably another part where this anime lacks consistency. While some scenes are quite well done and some fight sequences are really entertaining, others just seem lackluster. They serve their purpose but that’s about it. particularly around the mid-way point it all just seems very half-hearted.
Overall, this is a watchable series and if you like urban-fantasy you will probably enjoy it well enough. However, there are certainly stronger series out there.
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